Memorial Day Weekend, Gulf Coast, Florida

On Saturday night, after a long day of driving and finally getting settled into our residence for the next four days, I took River on his evening constitutional. He's usually pretty good about not eating garbage, but he found this discarded box of food and got his nose all in it. It didn't take him long to realize it was covered with ants. And apparently they bit or stung, because he started to dance across the parking lot doing the hokey pokey. He usually would sit still if I offered to remove a bur from his feet, but this time he wasn't sitting still, he kept kicking, even as I held his feet. I then started to brushed downward, hoping to knock off any ants (which I never saw, by the way, not one!) But I could tell by his body language that he wanted to run so we sprinted down the parking lot. I ran as fast as I could to keep up with him and he was nice enough to slow down to the speed that I could manage. We ran back and forth twice before going to get the rope toy out of the car and running once more back and forth with it in his mouth. Then that finally did the trick. He was calm again. But still limped as we walked back to the room.

I tried to get him to lie on his belly and show me his feet but he was in no mood. He crawled into his cage to lick  his wounds. I tried to reach in with my iPhone light on so I could see what damage was done, but he reminded me with a growl that I wasn't to encroach upon the sacred cage.

In the morning, he seemed to be ok, but I do see little tiny welts on his paws, right near the base of his claws.

It's nice and hot on Sunday, as I head up to Sarasota for the first of a series of four classes hosted by Rebecca Holahan. Today we did the Amazing routine at a place called Wild Ginger Lifestyle. It's a small space with great spirit. And we filled that room with bodies, which was impressive considering it is a holiday weekend and perfect beach weather.

This was my first time teaching the routine without mirrors and I haven't really worked out the best places to flip around. And being out of practice, I mixed up my left and right before I got re-acquainted with the technique. We laughed. It was all part of the fun.

It was a great group with lots of passion and smiles and by the end, lots of sweat.  One man who is 88 years old, told me he had a great time, even though he wasn't sure if he was going to make it today because his heart stopped the day before!  He then apologized for 'not keeping up' with me. I told him, I make concessions for anyone over 85 years old. HAHA. Throughout the class, and inherent in my teaching style is the invitation to 'do it your way'. I never ask the student to keep up with me, but I like to think I offer the freedom to explore. Another student told me that I couldn't imagine how inspirational the routine was for her. I believe that; how could I?! But I loved hearing it, too. That's awesome.

I drove back to the motel room in Venice and found that I had left my key in the studio. It's only a 20 minute drive between Venice and Sarasota, so I could have gone back, but no one was there. They locked up as I was leaving. Luckily, they don't make fusses about things here at the good ole 6, so I just went to the office and they issued me a new one.

I took a shower and got a burger before heading to the beach.

We went to Casparsen Beach, which was where we went last time we were here and had a great time. But it was overcast and almost raining that day so we had the whole place to ourself. That makes a big difference. Today was bright and sunny and it was Memorial Day weekend, so the place was full of people. It was quite stimulating for River, who found it quite challenging to stay calm. I kept reassuring him it was ok.

We hiked far enough down the coast until we found a spot that was deserted enough that we could switch to a longer leash and run a little bit. After a while, I played with going into the water. The gulf was wavy that day, and the shore drops off really quickly so it doesn't take long before I'm shoulder deep in water. And River nearly panics. I didn't know how badly upset he was by my disappearance into the water until I returned back and he angrily scolded me.

That's a fun anthropomorphization, but what I think really happened was that he felt I was gone from him and it stirred up a lot of energy which he needed to use to grab onto me and pull me down.  He had a very strong urge to bite me, he was actually making full contact with the hand that I was putting out to signal 'down'. And he was barking up a storm, bless his heart. I finally got him to calm down when I stood up and faced away from him to ignore him. Then, when he was calm again, I crouched down to his level so we could snuggle.

I did that two more times, and each time his reaction was less and less. But even the last time, once I started to emerge from the deep water, he would get so excited that he broke his "Stay", ran out to greet me in the foam and escort me back to the sand.

The level of concentration I had to be operating at, to navigate River through the waves and the people was so high that I could only do for about half an hour. It was fun-packed, but I knew that the longer I stayed, the more riled up he was going to get, so we left.

On the way back to the motel, we stopped at Sorrento Park for feeding time. I practiced the "Orbit" exercise, which rewards him for being calm and grounded. He got his entire dinner this way.
On Monday, we had a full house at the Venice Theater for Orchestra in the morning. Once again, I wasn't sure the routine would go over well, but once again, it seemed to be a popular hit. No one reported feeling frustrated, even though I specifically asked afterward if anyone did. The typical response was that they felt emotionally stirred, they were surprised at the intensity of the workout, they were impressed at how well I choreographed the movement to the music (thank you Marcelle Rudnick for all your help), and how interesting it was to connect our bodies with movement to this music that we've been hearing since birth, but never really danced to before.
It's a very exciting routine that's fun to present and to talk about. It brings up so much energy.
My host, Rebecca, before we got sweaty

she's a little spitfire. She read up on how people with Down Syndrome tend to gain weight, and took steps to combat it in herself. Look at those muscles!!

THIS is the feeling of the Orchestra routine.

There were plenty of chairs available and people used them when they chose to.  

I'm glad we had such a great, enthusiastic group today!

It being Memorial Day and a gorgeous day, River and I stayed away from the beaches today. There is a small park near the motel where enjoyed some outdoors without the bustling crowds. The idea is, when the normal people have gone back to work, we'll go back and explore the beaches again.
Today, we hung out near the fountain at Ruscalleto Park.

and walked by Hatchett Creek. I didn't know this, but tidal creeks ebb and flow with the tides of the ocean, and are a mix of salt and fresh water, so they harbor a unique cross section of life. One of those is the mangrove plant.

We saw a crane along the path.

He was walking quite briskly before I got my camera out, but froze like a lawn ornament when I tried to shoot him.

When we got back to the room, I had discovered I left my key inside, so we had to go back to the office to get a new one. The woman there was the same one present for River's explosion when we checked in. As soon as she saw us, she was eager to explain that River's intuition was spot on. The guy that triggered his bad reaction turned out to be in the center of what she called "a lot of craziness."

I told her I thought it was strange, even for him. He usually only reacts to people who are acting strangely or smell like alcohol. She said, "well they'd all been drinking." And she confessed that she loves dogs, and was taken aback when River was so friendly to her and then so vicious to that guy, but definitely wanted to let me know what happened, and to remind me that they're always right. I said, I know, they don't lie. I felt really good; I'm glad she told me that. I'm reassured that River wasn't just acting up, but was perhaps picking up on some negative intention that the guy had.

Monday night, I placed an ad on Craig's List, looking for a helpful guy with hair clippers to come by and shave the hair off my back and the back of my neck. I can't reach those places myself, nor see them, so I can't trim myself. I finally got a real answer from a guy (it took a while to get a response from someone who wasn't looking for sex).

He invited River and I to come to his house and chat. I had nothing going on, and he seemed normal and I wanted my hair cut, so we went over. It was just in the next town, North Port. We drove through a heavy rainstorm. I could see the dark clouds in the distance from Venice, and drove out of the rain when I left to come back. It's like the rainclouds were just hanging out above North Port. There was plenty of wind, but the storm was staying put.

It was a nice house. The couple that lived there bought things off of Craigs List and fixed them up, so it was all very eclectic. I never saw a two headed elephant before.  I asked him what the significance was and he didn't know. He told me he saw it on Craigs List and had to have it.

They have a couple of cats and several dogs. Both dogs were small and very old. One of them never moved, the whole time I was there. He looked like a ball of fur near the front door. I had to ask, 'is that dog alive?" I kept River on a short leash, and he cooperated by remaining calm as we made our way through the menagerie into the patio area. It was a glass covered sun room with a swimming pool and led to an enclosed yard area that River had access to. The resident animals were all locked inside the house, so I let River off his leash.

The first thing he did was make a dash for the pool. He miscalculated the edge and ka-SPLASH! We were all so surprised to see River swimming around in the pool. This was officially the first time he's ever had to swim. With all the bodies of water I've introduced him to, he's been very careful never to lose contact with the ground. I could see the panic in his face as he dog paddled his way to the edge and struggled to get out. He wasn't doing it on his own, so I calmly walked over and lent him my help. I reached down and gave him a boost to the wall and assisted him in climbing out.

I toweled him off and laid down a blanket for him to lie on. He kept close to my side the rest of the night, but always remained very interested in the whereabouts of the cats. After a couple of hours, River let me know that he was ready to go, so I thanked my new friends and went back to Venice.

The next day it was hot and sunny. I took River for a little drive as we needed to refill the water jugs and buy him a new bag of food.

I took River to Siesta Key Beach. This was another populated beach. Voted, I believe, the second best beach in the USA, so I had to see it. One of the students in class has a store near a beach access, so she let me park in her parking lot. I took River past the no dogs allowed sign, but kept him on a very short lead. I took him to the salt-white sand and he pooped on it. (I had a bag with me, of course)

I scoped out the situation and found a clear path to some unused section of water. It was hot and I was sweaty, and the beach was gorgeous, so I wanted to go in the water.  The waves were batting against him and he quickly grew tired of them, so I ran back out with him. I let him rest and acclimate to the beach a little bit longer and went in again. This time, I squatted down so that I could get my whole body wet and not have to leave him too far behind. He seemed OK with that.

I splashed myself and was surprised at the high salinity of the water, because it was so clear. And it was warm, like a bathtub.

We just did the two ventures out into the water and then started making our way back to the car. The white sand was blinding. My eyes are very sensitive to bright light, so it was a bit uncomfortable. I didn't have any sunglasses on. I also did bring my camera (phone), since I suspected I'd need to be fully focused on River and not have the opportunity to use it. That turned out to be the case. Which is too bad, too because it really is a beautiful beach.

Back in the car, we drove to Wild Ginger Studio for another Sarasota Nia class. This time it was the Woodstock Experience. And WOW. The last time I was in town, last year, I taught a Nuts and Bolts of FreeDance to this group. And I could really tell that they were now very comfortable with FreeDancing. The Woodstock Experience was realized beautifully today. The last two times I taught this routine, in Cullman, Alabama and today in Sarasota, we didn't have mirrors. And both times, I was enjoying our not having a 'front' of the room. I would guide the bodies from whereever I stood amongst them. Some of them did my moves, some of them did not, and some did a variation of my move. But we all stayed connected and partied. At one point, I think there was a joint being passed around. During the last song, I grabbed a hand and motioned for her to grab another hand, and without speaking of it, tried to set up a movement. But the students were so lost in being free that half of them never grabbed on. I never got the line formed so I didn't do the spiral of love. But obviously we didn't need it. It was blissful.
Too much LSD

FloorPlay Woodstock style

what a bunch of hippies

The Woodstock Experience

After class I did laundry. The sky was bright orange when I put my clothes in the wash. By the time they were done the sky had turned dark gray and thundered and then opened up, pouring rain. The walk to move my clothes into the dryer was like walking behind a waterfall from the second floor. I had to hug the building so my legs wouldn't get hit by the uproarious splash.

There was three minutes left on the washer, so I stood and waited..... Long three minutes...... The 2 finally turned into a one....  Then, with perfect comic timing, just as that 1 had been displayed for 30 seconds, the door clicks open and a woman with a bag of wet clothes heads straight for the dryer. I stood there and watched her clean the tint screen, throw in her scented sheet, struggle with getting the clothes in, recheck the lint trap, drop her quarters in and press the button and walk out the door.

No big deal. So I wait five minutes instead of three. But she took the bottom dryer. I like the bottom dryer. Sometimes, in the top dryer, if there's someone using the lower one, it creates steam in the top unit and it doesn't dry.  I'm not complaining. I'm sure the clothes will dry just fine up there.  I mention it because I thought it was funny how she screwed me so perfectly without having any idea.

As I was falling asleep that night, a party started up two doors down from my room. And it wasn't contained within their room, either. They had set chairs up and there were about five guys hanging out in front of the room, drinking beer, smoking and talking loudly in Spanish. I was going to be cool. Rise above it. I can sleep through anything. But I found that I was agitated. After about fifteen minutes of trying to dney that I was upset, I caved in and opened the door. I called out to them, "Hey guys, can you keep it down? It's almost midnight and I'm tryign to sleep in here."  They apologized, but it didnt' reduce the noise level. Interestingly, though, I was more able to cope with it, having said soemthing. Part of what was eating at me, was that I wasn't going to do anything about it. Once I did, I felt at peace with it. The party only lasted about another 45 minutes and then suddenly, a quiet broke the night.

In the morning, I got up early for a 9AM class at Wild Ginger. This was a new time slot for the group, and the few that showed up, complained about the earlier time. We have four people, and two of them were nursing pretty bad body pain, so we made it a healing focused class. It was wonderful.

Right after class, I took off, leaving the Gulf of Mexico behind me and headed for the ocean.


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